FIRST DRIVE | 2019 Lexus RX gets sharper looks and extra dynamism
What’s most likely to tempt you to buy a Lexus RX? Is it the edgy styling of the fourth generation midsize SUV with its humungous but characterful spindle grille? Is it the luxurious textiles found inside and the supreme wafting on the road? Or perhaps its hybrid technology, which Lexus pioneered with the RX as far back as 2006?
Whatever the pull, the RX range has been given a refresh for 2020 and it goes on sale here in December.
The range benefits from subtle exterior changes for a sharper appearance. The LED headlamps are narrower and house a new adaptive high beam assist system for the top of the range and there’s new sequential turn signal and headlight washers on the EX grade. The range also gains its first F Sport model which expands the line up to four models: the entry-level RX350, the seven-seater RX 350EX L, RX 350 F Sport and the range topping RX450h SE hybrid model.
For its sportier attitude, the new F Sport gets an angrier-looking, vertical mesh design spindle grille, differently styled lower bumper section and contrasting jet black plating on mirrors, as back door garnishing and F Sport specific 20-inch alloy wheels.
The range also gains a new style pair of 20-inch alloys as standard fitment and two new paints have been added to the available six. These are ice ecru, which is a matte-like white and terrane khakhi, which isn’t the sandy hue that you and I automatically think of, but a totally elegant green.
Beneath its new, mildly restyled skin is a raft of enhancements. Entering the large cabin you are now welcomed by the Lexus logo illuminated on the ground while the cabins can feature leather-clad seats either in black, ivory or noble brown. Ochre, a toffee-like hue, is introduced to the range as is rich cream, with the latter colour exclusively optioned in the hybrid SE specification. F Sport gets black or unique flare red trim with aluminium inserts and an F Sport steering wheel.
In whichever guise, the cabin ambience created by quality materials and a wide digital outlay is upmarket while the range also now gets Apple Carplay, Android Auto and the MyLexus App that beam through a 31cm touch screen that’s now rearranged to sit atop the dashboard while edging closer to passengers.
The 15GB of free Wi-Fi connection announced by Toyota SA recently is available, while there’s also a new smartphone holder, four additional USB ports, and the Lexus Remote Touch menu navigation button has morphed into a touch pad.
There’s also head-up display. Its already impressive safety and convenience cache adds adaptive cruise control, lane-trace and steering assist for the hybrid while the EX is updated with a power-folding second row of seats.
Mechanical enhancements extend to a suspension beefed up with new componentry to improve cornering posture, steering feedback and reduce body roll. The vehicle also benefits from reduced vibrations and increased torsional rigidity.
The range of engines and eight-speed automatic transmissions remain, with numbers that aren’t necessarily the biggest to play with in this segment. Regular 350 models still make use a naturally aspirated 3.5l V6 which outputs 216kW and 358Nm in seven-seat EX L guise but uprated to 221kW and 370Nm for the four-to-five seat 350 EX and F Sport derivatives.
The range-topping 450h SE hybrid’s motor is detuned to 193kW but the twin-electric motors boost power to a total system output of 230kW and 335Nm.
Its supreme wafting on the move for all RX model and surface irregularities are smothered away with not as much of a thud registering in the cabin. The F Sport with its adjustable dampers and 450h SE derivatives can also be invigorating drives with their pace which isn’t blistering, but tidily sufficient for hurrying along.
Crucially, they are not difficult or heavy to drive thanks to steering that’s linear and good body control over undulations.
Despite featuring all-wheel drive, the RX range isn’t really Dakar Rally material. In the unlikely event that a Lexus RX owner ventures a little further than the envisaged gravel driveway, they will find the 200mm ground clearance (195mm for the hybrid) high enough for that sharp beak to skip over mildly tricky sections.
Lexus RX 350 EX R1,012,000
Lexus RX 350 EX L R1,087,000
Lexus RX 350 F Sport R1,132,200
Lexus RX 450 h SE R1,315,800
The petrol range is available with a seven-year/105,000km warranty and full maintenance plan while the hybrid battery is eight years/195,000km with service intervals at every 15,000km or once a year.